Gophers soccer coach Erin Chastain on style of play, hometown roots and famous last name

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Aug. 6—New Gophers women's soccer coach Erin Chastain will make her first appearance at a Minnesota United game Saturday at Allianz Field. But her Minnesota soccer fandom dates back to the Thunder era in the 1990s.

The Plymouth native and Wayzata High School grad returned home in June to lead her alma mater at the U this season, and the Loons have welcomed her and her full team to the St. Paul stadium for the MLS game against the Houston Dynamo.

"I'm overall just a soccer fan," Chastain told the Pioneer Press on Friday. "I think it's been fun to see (the Loons). One, it's an awesome stadium that they play in, and the community and fans support is pretty incredible."

Chastian has spent the past 14 years coaching at DePaul, where she didn't feel a connection to, nor receive an invite from, the nearby Chicago Fire. Over the past eight season at DePaul, her teams went 78-44-26, with two Big East regular-season championships and two NCAA tournament berths.

Chastain replaces Stef Golan, who had some success at the U but went home herself to coach the Missouri Tigers. Chastain wants to carry forward Golan's blue-collar, "take the stairs" approach as she learns about her team, which just started preseason camp.

"I think a big staple of what I believe in is to be mentally tough and competitive and grinders, so I think we will still have that, but hopefully be able to play a fun, attacking brand of soccer," she said. "But that will be a work in progress because I think any time you add anything different from a style perspective, that is a process. We know that, but certainly some good pieces to work with."

Under her maiden name Erin Hussey, she played four years at the U, from 1993-96, with three years as a captain, two in midfield and two at No. 9. She is seventh all time at the U in points (83) and fondly remembers the 1995 Big Ten championship team.

"I think eventually we want to get to a point where we have numbers in the attacking third, including outside backs and we are able to keep the ball but also create a lot of scoring chances," she said. "Keeping the ball and making good decisions on the ball and playing a good brand of possession soccer goes a long way with a fun attacking style."

Her sister-in-law will help boost the program; she is Brandi Chastain, the former U.S. women's national team player famous for whipping off her jersey after scoring the winning penalty kick in the 1999 Women's World Cup.

Erin Hussey recalled watched those penalty kicks before attending a friend's wedding. Later on, she met her husband Chad, Brandi's brother, near the Chastain's family home in northern California.

"Now she is a huge part of my life and our life and my (two) daughters' lives, and she will end up being a huge part of Minnesota soccer because she will be one of our biggest fans, and hopefully we will get her out to (Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium). She will watch the games and give me lots of feedback on what she thinks we could do.

"She is such a great soccer mind, and she watches so much soccer," Erin said. "She watched our DePaul teams play and came to games. She will turn the page and now be a huge Gopher fan."

Brandi was a beacon for female empowerment two decades ago, and Erin has continued to carry the torch with an all-women coaching staff at Minnesota. "I think it sets a great tone for them in (the players') lives moving forward," she said. "So, certainly I wanted to hire the most qualified people, regardless of gender, and I just feel like I hit the jackpot because I was able to find great females to be a part of my staff."

That advocacy continues with Erin's support for a possible National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) team in Minnesota, which has been a continual talking point since MNUFC came online in MLS in 2017.

"I think this is a great market for it," Chastain said. "I look at Minnesota Gopher soccer and the attendance it gets at games and it's pretty incredible. Now you look at what Minnesota United has done. I certainly think the (newly launched) semi-pro team (in the USL W League) is a step in the right direction, but I think it would be incredible to have a women's pro team."